The Crossfire: Retro Rebooting

The Crossfire: Retro Rebooting

Guess who has been busy? Me! Sorry for you Crossfire fans who have had to wait an entire month, but them’s the brakes. With college kicked into full gear, in addition to more Sonic Nexus development after the surge of popularity, I never usually get time to myself. Working on the project, with it being a classic Sonic title and given the positive response that it has received everywhere, got me thinking about something…

In the past week, I have played the absolute hell out of Mega Man 9, Capcom’s return to the original Mega Man series and 8-bit gameplay and presentation. I am enjoying every minute of it, because I am not just riding a wave of nostalgia, but I am also impressed with the refined gameplay. The fact that a game straight out of 1988 can be successful in 2008 is downright admirable and eye-opening. It makes me wonder, as a Sonic fan, if a retro reboot is in order for another blue hero: Sonic. Would a 16-bit foray treading new ground be a commerical success or another step towards irrelevancy? Today, we take a look at whether or not SEGA has the potential to make some magic, akin to Capcom and Nintendo, and if looking backward has the potential to push forward.

POINT: Yes, please make a retro Sonic game.

New Super Mario Brothers sold like gold-encrusted pancakes at a billionaire lumberjack convention. The game has sold 15.82 million copies and an aggregate critic score of 89% since its release in 2006. It is the most successful DS game to date and the gameplay is straight-up, old-school Mario with the technical flourishes of the 21st century. Mega Man 9, an authentic retro reboot with 8-bit visuals and presentation, has seen much success since its release two weeks ago. The game sold 140,000 downloads in its first week and the critics have combined to give the game a score of 84%. Retro gaming is still alive and well.

Could this success be duplicated for Sonic? Yes. The popularity of the character is still rather high (I mean, look at this site) and all of us older, retro-gamers would certainly gobble it up. Unless you are a total cynic, a new entry in the classic Sonic series would be an absolute joy to play, in my opinion, regardless if you like the new-school entries more. Even if you were not alive for the Genesis-era games, do not tell me that you would not buy a retro entry. It is…like…a requirement for you to buy every Sonic game. [/joke] Plus, I think a reboot would re-ignite the gaming scene’s love for Sonic and he would look more respectable than he is now.

The X-factor that spills into both arguments of this Crossfire is definitely the talent in the development team. With Mega Man, there have been about 100 games and a countless number of spin-offs that the entire license became incredibly confusing and convoluted. However, amidst all the entries in the n-number of Mega Man spin-offs, Capcom managed to continue a story untouched in the last decade with great success. Same goes for Mario, to a degree, as I felt he was being lost to too much partying and sports outings.

In short, SEGA always says that they are “returning to the roots,” but never really have. With the success of Mario and Mega Man in their nostalgic outings, it is now SEGA’s turn to strike gold in and old mine.

COUNTERPOINT: A retro reboot would simply be a sugar-coated romp through the past and nothing more. It would have little impact on the hedgehog’s current standing.

When I first saw Mega Man 9, I said to myself, “Why would they do that? They are publishing a game in the vein of something we criticized Capcom back in the early 90s and still do to this day with their current franchises. They just re-release the same game with different bosses and minor gameplay upgrades. Still, since it was an original 8-bit game, I game excited at the prospect. My initial thought managed to spill into a few critic’s reviews, though.

Critics have used the term “tinted shades” to describe some of the overly positive comments about Mega Man 9. While the game is a great retro game, it is not flawless. Plus, another element to the sales of the game is whether or not you are a classic Mega Man fan or not. Wesley Yin-Poole of wrote in his MM9 review:

If you’re not [a fan of classic Mega Man], you might wonder what all the fuss is about. There’s nothing particularly fun about constantly dying what feels like a hundred unfair deaths an hour (the ability to buy power ups from a store does help, but not by much). If Mega Man is more of an enigma than a role model, you’ll want to pass this one by. And don’t feel like you’re not hardcore because of it, either. You can’t win them all.

To relate this comment to Sonic, if you are more of a fan of today’s noticeably faster ‘hog, or were not even around to experience the 16-bit generation, there is really nothing to catch your interest.

When it comes to the hedgehog’s future, a retro game would probably do nothing for future entries in the series. I cannot see Mega Man 9 sparking people’s interest in current generation Mega Man titles (i.e. Battle Network) if they were not already interested and I can probably say the same for Sonic. Making a classic Sonic game would most definitely not make people interested in buying Sonic and the Black Knight, as they are two completely different games, in my view. A retro reboot would garner loads attention and support during its first months of release, but present day Sonic does not get any better. You cannot live in the past forever.

Finally, to address the aforementioned “X-factor.” Capcom and Nintendo had the luxury of having people who pioneered Mega Man and Mario, Keiji Inafune and Shigeru Miyamoto respectively, still on staff. As a result, their blasts to the past were refined and nostalgic, proving that 2D gameplay can survive in a world where games are becoming more and more cinematic or all about technical bells and whistles. I do not see any of the classic Sonic staff members still employed by SEGA. So, even if SEGA made a retro reboot, would it be good without some Genesis-era influence? I mean, if they screwed up classic Sonic, that would spurn people on a whole new level (oh, wait, they did…thanks Sonic 1 GBA). Also, just for kicks, let’s throw in the “fact” that Sonic is not cool and is for 11-year old kids, according to SEGA of America president, Simon Jeffery. Does SEGA take Sonic seriously according to those remarks? Probably, because that’s just Simon Jeffery spewing his daily dosage of bullshit.

DECISION: Where do you stand? Of course, there are always more perspectives than the two that have been presented here, so if you got one, let us have it!

NOTICE: Since the last fan-submitted issue was such a success, I’m looking for someone else to step up to the plate. Do you have an aspect of the Sonic universe that has two sides to the story? Well, write a Crossfire article and submit it to me via SSMB private message.

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Slingerland is a staff writer and editor for both The Sonic Stadium and Sonic Retro. His area of emphasis is the inner-workings of the games and laughing at everything.